Social and Cultural Growth
NO less important than the impetus which the rail|roads gave to Springfield's commercial prosper|ity and physical improvement were their effects upon the social life of the town.
One result of quick, cheap and comparatively comfortable travel was the formation of numerous organizations—pro|fessional, educational, social—on a statewide scale. The con|vention—a seemingly necessary element in the life of all such bodies—was now, as never before, an easy matter. Centrally located, and having especial prestige because of its possession of the state government, Springfield quickly became a fa|vorite gathering place. One of the first influential groups to be organized there was the Illinois State Medical Society, formed in the rooms of the State Library on June 4, 1850. With the completion of the railroad between Alton and Chicago, and the construction of lines elsewhere in the state, the number of conventions multiplied manyfold. Typical of many years were the first two weeks of January, 1855, when the legislature, the State Agricultural Society, the State Educational Convention, the State Colonization Society and the Illinois Maine Law Alliance were all scheduled to meet.
One of these organizations was already responsible for what soon came to be a fixed feature of Illinois life—the state fair. In the summer of 1851 the Sangamon County Agri|cultural Society was formed. Eighteen months later this body Page 185 took the lead in organizing a larger group, the Illinois State Agricultural Society. One of the goals of the new organiza|tion was an annual, state-wide exhibition at which farmers could show their best products, learn what others were do|ing, and profit by the comparison. The grounds of the old Farmers' and Mechanics' Association west of Springfield 1 were available. The state society had some money, the legis|lature made a small appropriation, and the citizens of Spring|field pledged enough to erect suitable buildings. With the way thus cleared, the exhibition was set for the middle of September, 1853.
Many weeks were spent in preparation. Around the grounds a high plank fence was erected, stables were built along the east and south sides, and a long shed for the display of fruits and handiwork was constructed at the western limits. Pens for hogs and sheep were knocked together, wells were sunk and chain pumps put in place. The central part of the grounds was reserved for heavy machinery. In town an energetic clean-up was inaugurated. When the urge to self-improvement manifested itself criticism was rarely mild, and now, with the good opinion of thousands of visitors as the prize, the editors were eloquent on the subject of the city's shortcomings. "The brick bats, trash, old hats, old boots and shoes and scraps of leather, rags, bones, manure, and many other things which grace some of our streets, in front of our doors, and are found in our alleys, should be hauled off, and hog holes filled up, and other nuisances abated," one of the papers urged. If only these things were done, a long step would be taken to correct the reputation for mud and filth for which Springfield was notorious.
To house thousands of visitors, the people realized, would be a hard problem. To meet it spare rooms were prepared and attics were cleaned and fitted with furniture. But the Page 186 event turned out to be even worse than the expectation. On the night of September 11—the opening day—400 were registered at both the American House and the City Hotel, smaller taverns were similarly crowded, and hundreds of men and women who were unable to find accommodations any|where slept in chairs and on the floors. On later nights the jam was even worse. Estimates of the number of visitors varied from 10,000 to 20,000. In only one particular were accurate figures available: a statistically-minded enquirer who made the rounds of the butcher shops learned that in four days 47,950 pounds of meat had been disposed of, and this was not counting the small sales of one butcher who had the colossal misfortune to be ill during most of the fair, nor the vast quantities of pork and poultry which the farm|ers sold direct to the townspeople.
The fair itself was a great success. There were big dis|plays of mowers and reapers, threshing machines, plows, harrows and other implements. Cattle and horses in plenty, and fair numbers of sheep, swine and poultry were exhibited. The fruit department was well supplied, and "Floral Hall" presented "a tasteful appearance." A profusion of needle|work, patchwork, dry goods and clothing was in evidence. At nights Herr Alexander, the wizard, delighted crowds at Clinton Hall, and Pell's "Varieties" offered juggling, bear wrestling and banjo playing in a pavilion south of the American House. Interest continued unabated, and on the last day Professor Jonathan Baldwin Turner, the state's foremost exponent of industrial education, spoke on "The Millennium of Labor" to a large audience.
"The Fair is over and gone," the editor of the Journal wrote a few days later. "Its doings have become a 'fixed fact' in the records of our state.—There it will stand, a start|ing point for future reference and comparison. Its influence no one can foresee or determine." A fixed fact it was, but not in the history of Springfield. The following year the Page 187 second state fair, better attended even than the first, was held in the same place, but in 1855 Chicago carried off the prize, in 1856 it went to Alton, and thereafter a different city was chosen each year.2 In its place, the farmers of Sangamon County organized a county fair. At first it suffered from comparison with the statewide exhibition, but it soon grew to creditable proportions and became an annual Spring|field event.
In addition to facilitating such gatherings as fairs and conventions, the greater ease and convenience of travel re|sulted in a large increase in the number of musicians, lectur|ers and entertainers who visited the capital. The Newhall Family, the Robinson Family, the Columbians, the Alleghen|ians—these came as before, but more frequently, while out|standing artists like Ole Bull and Adelina Patti appeared for the first time.3 In January, 1853, Ralph Waldo Emer|son gave three lectures in the State House. In 1854 Bayard Taylor spoke in the Baptist Church on "The Arabs"—"un|questionably the most delightful and popular lecture ever given to a Springfield audience," one of the papers com|mented. The following year he returned for three lectures on "Japan," "India," and "The Philosophy of Travel."
(Taylor arrived in a driving rain and found the town a quagmire. Wisely he kept his impressions to himself until he published the first volume of At Home and Abroad in 1859. There, in addition to a few remarks about the mud, he wrote: "I must do Springfield the justice to say that it has its sunshiny side, when the mud dries up with magical rapidity and its level streets become fair to look upon. The clouds cleared away on the morning after my arrival, and when my friend, Captain Diller, took me to the cupola of Page 188 the State House and showed me the wide ring of cultivated prairie, dotted with groves of hickory, sugar-maple, and oak, which inspheres the capital of Suckerdom, I confessed that it was a sight to be proud of. The young green of the woods and the promising wheatfields melted away gradually into blue, and the fronts of distant farm-houses shown in the morning sun like the sails of vessels in the offing. The wet soil of the cornfields resembled patches of black velvet— recalling to my mind the dark, prolific loam of the Nile Valley.")
After Emerson and Taylor, the leading lecturers of the country followed in quick succession—Horace Greeley ("Re|form and Reformers") and Henry Ward Beecher ("Con|servatism and Progression") in 1855, Theodore Parker ("The Progressive Development of Mankind") in 1856, and Parke Benjamin ("Hard Times") in 1857. Prices were low—usually 25¢—and large crowds attended. But the big|gest crowd of all was a tribute to notoriety rather than in|tellect. Springfield disapproved when Lola Montez—dancer, actress, and onetime mistress of the King of Bavaria— lectured on "Fashion" in the spring of 1860, but curiosity overcame scruples and Cook's Hall was packed.
Circuses continued their visits to Springfield, but none of them aroused such excitement as the organization which set up its big tent on the east side of the square on October 3, 1853—P. T. Barnum's "Grand Colossal Museum and Menagerie." Barnum's name was already a household word—too much so, it would seem, from the wail of dis|appointment which arose the next day. Tom Thumb was all that he was claimed to be, but the balance of the show was a fraud. The main tent contained "a few old shells, bones, stuffed skins, Indian relics, and a mummy. Next, a load of miserable caricatures, in wax . . . Then eight or ten car|riages of animals . . ." In the side shows scattered around the square were ballet performers at an admission charge of Page 189 10¢; the Happy Family—"a small dirty coop of monkeys, dogs, possums, woodchucks, squirrels, a California tiger cat" and a hurdy gurdy to provide music—at 10¢; the "Great scotch Giant and Giantess" at 15¢; and a live alligator and California bear paired together for a dime. On the streets girls in Swiss peasant costumes ground music boxes and took dimes from the country boys.
No sooner was a large hall available than theatrical per|formances, unknown in Springfield for a number of years, were resumed. In February and March, 1855, a traveling stock company played in Metropolitan Hall to good crowds. The following year the Varieties Theater played two engage|ments in the same place. Early in 1857, during the "gay season," the great actor Charles Walter Couldock played for several weeks. A crowded house, "composed of the beauty and chivalry of the State," rewarded him when he gave a benefit performance of "Richelieu" on the last night of the season.
But even though their number had increased notably, visitors did not monopolize the provision of Springfield's amusements. Bands and other musical organizations of local people flourished. The Germans of the city formed a theater group and fitted up Carpenter's Hall for productions. Even local lecturers drew good audiences—so good, in fact, that Abraham Lincoln was induced to give his lecture on "Dis|coveries and Inventions" on two separate occasions.
Moreover, local organizations of one kind or another were multiplying rapidly. The exhibits of the Springfield Horticul|tural Society, first given in 1849, became annual events at|tended by hundreds, many of whom came from nearby towns. Each year after 1856 the Typographical Association held a "Franklin Festival," with dinner, toasts and dancing, on the birthday of the great printer-philosopher. The New England Society celebrated annually the landing of the Pilgrims at Plymouth Rock. In 1859 the admirers of Robert Burns, Page 190 with Abraham Lincoln prominent among them, commemo|rated the centenary of the Scotch poet's birth with a dinner at Concert Hall at which a large number of "mysterious-looking bottles" circulated freely. Every year citizens' sup|pers were held at the State House, with the proceeds dedi|cated to the relief of the poor.
In addition, the citizens themselves found time for fre|quent dinners, parties and calls. Social activity started in earnest at Christmas. All day the streets were thronged with ladies purchasing gifts—much of the buying was done on the day itself—while the youngsters devoted themselves to setting off firecrackers and other explosives until every excitable horse in town had run away or been stabled.
New Year's Day was devoted to calling. "The observ|ance of the day," commented one of the newspapers in 1857, "consists in making the annual New Year's call of compli|ments and congratulation. . . . In no Western town is there usually such an interchange of visiting as in Springfield and no where are they enjoyed with more zest. All the city and his wife are expected to make it a holiday and nobody is com|pelled to work except the cook."
Everyone kept open house. Girls gauged their popularity by the number of cards they had collected by the end of the day, so when absence or illness prevented them from re|ceiving, ribboned baskets for cards were hung on doorknobs. Often callers came as early as nine o'clock in the morning. When a young man started at this hour, and received liberal potions of eggnog at most of the homes he visited, it is not surprising that by late afternoon he found walking a dif|ficult occupation. Everyone served escalloped oysters, chicken salad, coffee, ice cream, cake and candy, and how digestions ever survived the ordeal is one of the mysteries of the century.
Immediately after the New Year, court sessions, and in odd years the legislature, drew many visitors and furnished Page 191 additional reasons for social activity. Typical of the city's hospitality was the public invitation which Governor Matte|son issued in 1853, asking members of the legislature, judges of the supreme court, strangers in the city and ladies to call at the executive residence on any Thursday evening during the legislative session between the hours of eight and eleven. In other Springfield homes—those of Jacob Bunn, Ninian and Benjamin Edwards, James L. Lamb, George Pasfield, Stephen T. Logan, John T. Stuart, Nicholas H. Ridgely and George L. Huntington, to mention but a few—"strangers," as they were called, were no less welcome. The diary of Orville H. Browning, who was a regular visitor in the city, reflects the hospitality which prevailed. "Went to Judge Treats to supper with the Supreme Judges, and Grimshaw & McChesney," he recorded on January 26, 1859. Two days later he attended a party at the Dubois home,4 and the next day he took tea with the Rev. John H. Brown, pastor of the First Presbyterian Church. On February 2 he was present at "a large party" at Lincoln's, and the next day he was again a supper guest of the Browns. On February 9th he had supper at the home of John T. Stuart. The next eve|ning there was a levee at Governor Bissell's—"a great crowd present, and a pleasant party." And so it went.
The Matteson administration was a particularly gay time. The Governor's family was popular and entertained lavishly. When the new mansion was completed in January, 1856, the Mattesons opened it with one of the largest par|ties the town had ever known, and thereafter it became a center of social life. Not, however, to the exclusion of other homes. "Within the last three weeks," Mrs. Lincoln wrote to her sister in February of the following year, "there has been a party almost every night and some two or three grand fetes are coming off this week. I may perhaps surprise you when I mention that I am recovering from the slight fatigue Page 192 of a very large and I really believe a very handsome enter|tainment, or at least our friends flatter us by saying so. About five hundred were invited, yet owing to an unlucky rain three hundred only favored us by their presence and the same evening in Jacksonville, Colonel Warren gave a bridal party to his son who married Miss Birchall of this place which occasion robbed us of some of our friends. . . ."
"The inhabitants of this city," wrote John Reynolds in 1854, "enjoy the social pleasures and happiness arising out of an intelligent and refined society, to a considerable extent, and often indulge in the facinations [sic] and attractions of tasty and elegant convivial parties. The streets of this city are spacious and beautiful, which afford the gay and fashionable citizens, in good weather, a delightful prome|nade, which is much enjoyed by both sexes, arm in arm, or separately. The citizens are celebrated for their hospitality and urbanity of manners. They enjoy great pleasure in ex|tending to strangers and others, the refined and elegant civilities that are due from one to another in a polished and accomplished society." The Ex-Governor was a notorious flatterer who rarely spoke ill of anyone—at least in print— but everything indicates that in this case he wrote without his customary exaggeration.
But in spite of the keen enjoyment which the people of Springfield found in social activities, the prevailing tone of society was one of moral and intellectual seriousness. Early in 1856 a number of citizens agitated the formation of a library association. Within a week $700 was subscribed, an organization was perfected, and officers were elected—T. J. Carter as president, William H. Herndon and Thomas Mather secretaries, and Jacob Bunn, treasurer. In May the old rooms of the United States Court 5 were fitted up, and Page 193 a considerable number of books were made available to the subscribers. Sometime earlier an organization—a forerun|ner of the Y. M. C. A.—to promote "the mental and re|ligious improvement of young men" had been formed. Another group, under the name of the City Lyceum, was meeting at regular intervals to discuss such subjects as "Ought capital punishment to be abolished?" and "Is it expedient to adopt the Maine liquor law in Illinois?"
The latter question recalls the great wave of temperance agitation which swept over the country in the fifties, with strong eddies disturbing the even course of Springfield's life.
At an early date in the town's history there were protests from those who objected to the sale of intoxicating liquors. A curious entry in the record book of the county commis|sioners' court for 1835—four years before Springfield was incorporated—reads as follows: "Whereas Petitions having been presented to this Court Signed by many respectable Citizens of Sangamon County praying the court to withhold Tavern licens or Grocery licens and the court having also had before them and now on file the written opinion of the Gentlemen of the Bar of this place The court thinks the matter of importance but makes no further decision thereon till the next term of this court." Nothing came of the peti|tions, but the Washingtonian movement of a few years later made itself felt. Beginning in Baltimore in 1840, when a number of habitual drinkers pledged themselves to total ab|stinence and determined to persuade others to do likewise, the movement spread rapidly. In mid-December, 1841, a delegation from Alton organized the First Springfield Wash|ington Temperance Society. By the last day of the month the membership numbered 350, and six months afterward it was said that there were 700 Washingtonians in Springfield and 2,000 in Sangamon County. Prominent among them was Abraham Lincoln, who delivered the address at the first gala meeting—on Washington's Birthday, 1842—and an|tagonized Page 194 many of the righteous citizens by stating his con|viction that "such of us as have never fallen victims have been spared more by the absence of appetite than from any mental or moral superiority over those who have."
But the Washingtonian movement was too emotional to endure. Taking its place in the agitation against alcoholic liquor came the Sons of Temperance. This organization was founded in 1845 as a secret order whose members were pledged to temperance. Spreading slowly at first, by 1848 it was active enough in Springfield to hold demonstrations on Washington's Birthday and the Fourth of July, and nearly every year thereafter these days were occasions for parades in full regalia and public meetings devoted to the evils of strong drink.
The Sons of Temperance and its junior order, the Cadets of Temperance, with other organizations like the Roman Catholic Total Abstinence Society, were symptomatic of a widespread feeling among thoughtful people that the evils of intoxicants were exceeding tolerable limits. Many citizens, moreover, were becoming impatient with persuasion as a means to sobriety. In 1850 public opinion forced a popular vote on the question of whether licenses should be granted to taverns within the city limits, and the result was a three-to-one majority in the negative. Thus the retail sale of liquor was prohibited, although the purchase of intoxicants in quan|tities, for consumption at home, was still permitted. But the result was disappointing. Almost at once the complaint was made that license or no license, grog shops were operating as they always had. Although plenty of evidence was brought forward to prove the contention, the authorities refused to act. In the end, all efforts to keep the taverns closed were given up.
Over the country, however, a movement for downright prohibition was gaining momentum. In 1851 the Maine legislature passed a prohibitory law, and other New England Page 195 states quickly followed the example. Opponents of liquor pressed hard for the adoption of similar legislation every|where. In January, 1853, the Illinois State Temperance Convention met in Springfield and memorialized the legis|lature to pass a "Maine law." The legislature refused, but the agitation, which continued in the form of temperance lectures, temperance suppers and temperance meetings, had its fruit in May, 1854, when the people of the capital, by a vote of 468 to 391, decided to prevent the sale of spirituous, vinous or malt liquor in any quantity within the limits of the town.
The prohibition ordinance went into effect on August 1, 1854. By August 5th an establishment on the Peoria road outside the city limits was selling liquor at a rapid rate. Immediately there was hot debate on the practicability of the measure which had been adopted. "Time and a fair trial is necessary to the ascertainment of the efficacy of every law, and particularly of those of a reformatory character . . . ," said the defenders of the ordinance. "The total prohibition of the traffic in liquors as a beverage is the only hope for the suppression of intemperance. All other measures have failed." But the people of the city were inclined to doubt. On June 4, 1855, when a Maine law which the legislature had adopted subject to popular approval was put to a vote, Springfield cast 735 votes against it and only 631 in its favor. The result forecast the doom of the local prohibitory ordinance. On November 6, when a vote was taken on the question, the count was 450 for repeal and 322 for con|tinuance. As soon as the result was known a procession formed, paraded the streets behind a band, and by the light of burning tar barrels held a jollification meeting on the square.
Other social evils as well as intemperance drew the atten|tion of reformers. In 1859 it was said that there were no less than twenty gambling houses in Springfield, some of Page 196 which were fitted up as elaborately as the glittering establish|ments of St. Louis and New Orleans. In one night during that year a local citizen was reported to have won over $5,000 at a single sitting. Houses of ill fame were numerous. "Why is it that the keepers . . . are protected when the order-loving part of the community undertake to rid their vicinity of those evils?" the reforming citizens asked. "Why is it that our police do not endeavor to break up those houses, in order to preserve peace and quiet in neighborhoods, benefit the youth and maintain the good name of our city?" But publicity aroused no response, and nothing was done.
In an age of organizations and moral fervor, it was natural that fraternal orders should flourish. Very early in Springfield's history the Masonic order had made its ap|pearance. The first lodge, Sangamo Lodge No. 29, obtained a charter from the Grand Lodge of Missouri in 1822, but was later disbanded. Another lodge was organized in 1839, and rechartered the following year as Springfield Lodge No. 4. Among its early members were Samuel H. Treat, James Shields and Stephen A. Douglas. In 1840, also, the first Odd Fellows lodge—Sangamon Lodge No. 6—was organized with thirty-five members. The decade preceding the Civil War saw the expansion of both orders. New Masonic lodges were organized in 1849 and 1860, while the growing importance of the Germans as an element in Springfield's population was emphasized in 1855, when Teu|tonia Lodge No. 166 of the Odd Fellows was formed.
Meanwhile, the religious organizations of the city had expanded and multiplied. The Presbyterian Church, first house of worship to be erected in the town, soon became too small. A revival in 1840 led to a decision to build a new church. Subscriptions to the amount of $15,000 were secured, and in the fall of 1843 the building was completed. Two years later an organ was installed, to the consternation of the more conservative members. Meanwhile, the Second Page 197 Presbyterian Church was flourishing. With the influx of the Portuguese, a Portuguese Presbyterian Church was organized in 1849. In the same year dissention arose in the First Presbyterian Church over the resignation of Doctor Bergen, and the Third Presbyterian Church was organized. Two years later their church building, designed by George I. Barnett of St. Louis, the architect of the State Bank Build|ing, was finished. But the number of Presbyterian churches was not yet complete, for in 1858 a division took place among the Portuguese, and the Second Portuguese Presby|terian Church came into existence.
Methodism, which antedated Presbyterianism, seemed to have greater cohesive powers, for the only duplication in congregations took place when the German members of the sect organized the German Methodist Church and erected a church building on the corner of Sixth and Mason streets in 1856. Like the Presbyterians, the Methodists had quickly outgrown their original church. Unlike them, however, they had been unable at once to raise funds for the construction of a new edifice. Nevertheless, in 1842 the building had been enlarged by the addition of transepts. By 1850 the Methodist society was the largest religious organization in the city, and a new and larger church was a necessity. Springfield was more prosperous than it had been ten years earlier, but even so the task of raising funds was a hard one. By the summer of 1851 the main part of a new structure had been completed, but all the money was gone. Public appeals for funds were made, but it was not until 1854 that the church was finally finished and dedicated.
In 1834 the Baptists had erected a small frame church on the southwest corner of Seventh and Adams streets. The society grew, and a new building became desirable, but a campaign for subscriptions fell far short of the necessary amount. Refusing to give up, the pastor, G. S. Bailey, set out in 1847 to raise money in the East. Seven months later Page 198 he returned with $700. The congregation took heart, local subscriptions increased, and a church building was started. By the spring of 1850 the Baptists, too, had a new church.
The erection of one church building led inevitably to another. At the same time that the Baptists were planning a new edifice, the Episcopalians were completing a church to replace the small wooden structure which had served them since organization. On June 28, 1848, the new building was dedicated by the venerable Bishop Philander Chase, assisted by clergymen from Jacksonville and Rock Island. A few years later the Campbellites, or Disciples of Christ, as they were coming to be called, erected a brick building on the northeast corner of Sixth and Jefferson streets.
As time went on, new denominations supplemented those which had been organized early in Springfield's history. After occasional preaching by itinerant ministers, the Lu|therans of the town had organized in 1841 under the leader|ship of the Rev. Francis Springer. Not until 1859, however, did they have a church building of their own. Mean|while, their German-speaking brethren had formed Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church, and were holding services in a small frame meeting-house on Third Street near Wash|ington. By 1850, also, a Universalist society was holding meetings twice a month. Seven years later it had grown to such an extent that it undertook the construction of a church building of its own on the corner of Fifth and Cook streets.
By this time, the Roman Catholic Church had become established. For the first two decades of Springfield's ex|istence only a handful of communicants resided in the town. In 1840 the Rev. George Hamilton reported to his Bishop that there were only nine Catholic families in the capital, and two other families in which the women were Catholics. Altogether they were too poor to afford a church. In fact, the priest had difficulty in finding even a room for services. During the preceding summer he had reported that there Page 199 was only one suitable vacant room in town, and since that had been built for a theater, and would doubtless be used for that purpose again, he did not think it becoming that it should be devoted, even temporarily, to Divine worship.
However, the number of communicants increased steadily, and in mid-August, 1842, the Sangamo Journal noted the presence in Springfield of Bishop Kendrick of St. Louis and two attending priests, come for the purpose of dedicating "the neat Catholic Church, situate in the east part of the city."6 Henceforth, the paper stated, Springfield would have a resident priest. As time went on the congregation outgrew the small structure. In 1855 the northeast corner lot at the corner of Monroe and Seventh streets was secured, and in the following year the construction of the Church of the Immaculate Conception was commenced. Before it was com|pleted the first sisters of the Ursuline Order, five in number, arrived in Springfield and opened a school in a residence on North Sixth Street. The following year—1858—they secured a larger building at the corner of Sixth and Mason streets, where they conducted a parochial school and an academy until the close of the Civil War. Thus, by the end of the fifties, both the Roman Catholic Church, and one of the teaching orders which have played so large a part in the education of its children, were firmly established in Springfield.
Although it antedated the church in the days when the town was a cluster of log cabins, the school lagged behind in its development. During the first decade there was only one school in the town, though it was held in various places and conducted by a number of schoolmasters. Two schools, each with an enrollment of about sixty pupils, supplied all educational facilities until the late thirties, when several Page 200 smaller institutions—if they can be dignified by that name— were organized. All were conducted by individuals as they saw fit, without supervision and without standards of any sort. Each family paid tuition for each child. Too often the children of the poorer residents attended only long enough to learn the rudiments of reading and writing, and there were many who never attended at all.
In 1839 the Springfield Academy, newly incorporated, opened in a new building on South Fourth Street. For fifteen years this institution, together with the Springfield Female Seminary which the Rev. J. F. Brooks conducted, and the Mechanics' Institute, bore the brunt of the educational bur|den, although there were always a number of smaller schools. The schedule of opening dates for the fall of 1850 listed, in addition to the two just mentioned, the Parochial School of the First Presbyterian Church, the Rev. E. Miller's Classical School, and the Springfield Young Ladies' Insti|tute, which held classes in the rooms of the Baptist Church. In this school tuition charges, doubtless the same as in the others, were as follows: for each child, per quarter, in the first class of the primary department, $2.50; for the second class of the primary department, $3.00; for the advanced departments, $4.00, $5.00 and $6.00. Thus a family with three children in school would be forced to pay in the neighborhood of $100 a year for tuition alone.
With the growth of social consciousness which character|ized the ten years preceding the Civil War, the advocates of a free, tax-supported school system became vocal. Many families with small incomes, they pointed out, found it ex|tremely difficult, if not impossible, to give their children the simplest kind of educational opportunities. Other cities in the state—Chicago, Galena, Joliet—had established free school systems: must the capital forever lag behind?
The citizens answered in the negative in 1854. Plans for organizing the system were made at once, but not until the
(From a lithograph owned by J. S. Sutton, Springfield, Ill.)
(From a lithograph owned by J. S. Sutton. Springfield. Ill.)
With the appointment of a superintendent—S. M. Cutcheon of Ypsilanti, Michigan—in 1858, the organiza|tion was completed. But to secure satisfactory attendance was a different matter. In 1857 there were slightly more than 1,000 children enrolled in the public schools with an additional 300 in private schools, but it was estimated that nearly twice that many inhabitants of Springfield were under twenty-one years of age. Two years later, in his first annual report, Superintendent Cutcheon was able to make available exact figures, thanks to a city census taken in 1858. While there were 2,045 children between the ages of five and fifteen in the city, the number enrolled in the public schools was 1,293 with 250 in private institutions. Of 1,143 boys and girls over fifteen and under twenty-one, only 117 were at|tending public and 200 private schools. Thus 500 children under fifteen years of age, and more than 800 youths between fifteen and twenty-one, were not enrolled in any school. Moreover, the daily attendance—there being no compulsion —was often only half of the enrollment.
Still, the town was proud of its schools, and much atten|tion was paid to the public examinations with which each term concluded. For a solid week self-conscious pupils de|claimed Webster's Address to the Survivors of Bunker Hill, Patrick Henry's Speech on the War of American Inde|pendence, Page 202 and such "pieces" as "The Gambler's Wife" and "Mother, Home and Heaven," while the prominent citizens of the board of visitors looked important and fathers and mothers alternated between pride and trepidation. On such occasions the public school system was an unqualified success.
At the same time that the public schools were being or|ganized, an institution of higher learning was taking root. In 1851 the citizens, under the leadership of John T. Stuart, had bestirred themselves to secure for Springfield the academy and college which the Lutheran Church was plan|ning to establish. When the children of Pascal P. Enos, one of the town's original proprietors, donated ten acres of ground in the northeastern part of the city, and others made subscriptions towards the construction of buildings and the establishment of scholarships, the location was assured.
In April, 1852, the institution, under the name of the Illinois State University,8 admitted its first students. Until its own building, which was commenced at once, was ready for occupancy, classes were held in the Mechanics Union at the corner of Third and Washington streets. During the first year seventy-nine students enrolled in the preparatory department and three were admitted to the freshman class of the college. Tuition charges were $30.00 for a forty-week year in the college and $25.00 in the academy, unless one wished to undertake the "learned languages and more advanced sciences," in which case an additional fee was col|lected. Most of the students were from Springfield, and the few who came from outside the city provided their own room and board. The college urged them to club together, and assured prospective students that on the basis of the first year's experience, the entire cost of living for a thrifty stu|dent would not vary greatly from seventy-five cents a week.
Page 203In five years the college was fairly well established. An "elegant four story edifice," with the first story of cut stone and the balance of brick, provided class-room facilities for 119 students, thirty-three of whom were taking college courses. Four professors, all ministers, a principal of the grammar school and a steward made up the faculty. The curriculum was exclusively classical. The freshman started with Latin and Greek grammar, Livy, Xenophon, algebra and universal history, and the senior wound up on Terence or Plautus, Sophocles, the evidences of Christianity, miner|alogy and geology, and a general review. Studies in the Greek Testament, and "English Composition and Decla|mation," were continued throughout the entire four years. In the college catalogs it all looked very academic and im|posing, but local youths like Robert Lincoln and Clinton Conkling, and John Hay, who came from Pittsfield to enter, learned to their disappointment that the combined efforts of four ministers, sincere though they might be, still fell short of the august requirements of Harvard and Yale and Brown.
The important fact, however, was not that the college failed to live quite up to its promises, but that the college existed at all. So it was with the public schools. Enrollment might be poor, and attendance even poorer, but at least a free school system had been established, and the only direc|tion it could move—given a typical American city—was forward. And the same could be said with justice of the other cultural and religious and moral activities which the people had undertaken. Perfection might still be far distant, just as the streets were not yet free from mud, but what had been achieved was impressive.